Kevin Mitchell is a man with many personalities: husband, father, frontman of legendary Aussie rock band Jebediah, and folk pop alter-ego Bob Evans. As ‘Bob’ was about to embark on his Lonesome Highways solo tour, Girl caught up with him to talk life, lessons and a little bit of music.
How are you? What’s been happening?
I’m well thank you. Getting ready to go on this tour, the first show is less than a month away now, so yeah, I’m starting to turn my attention to that (sighs) and I’m gonna have to start thinking about what songs I’m gonna rehearse! And yeah obviously just doing a lot of this, and a lot of talking (laughs). I’ve got a show this weekend on the Mornington Peninsula, doing this festival called the Penninsula Picnic which will be the first gig that I’ve done for a couple of months.
Excellent, so a bit of a rehearsal then?
Yeah, but we don’t need the good people of Mornington to know that (laughs). I don’t want them to think they’re just getting a rehearsal (laughs).
So you find it difficult, like you said, trying to pick what songs, do you find it tricky now that you’ve got five albums’ worth of material to choose from?
Ah yeah, I do, but it’s a good problem to have. It’s a really really good problem to have because you know, it just makes me feel like… it’s a good feeling to be trying to figure out what to leave out as opposed to trying to figure out what to put in. You know, honestly it does not feel like that long ago where I was touring after my first record and, you know, to play a full set you’d have to add in covers and B-sides, you’d literally be playing every single fucking thing that you possibly had. By the time you’d get to your second record you’ve got a bit of breathing space, you can kind of be a bit more selective. And yeah, after five records I feel like having that amount of choice is really cool. I’m always surprised at the songs that people ask for, I’m always surprised at songs that I think no one really cares about any more (laughs) will be asked for. So yeah, it’s a good feeling to have that behind me.
Do you get a lot of people asking for Jebediah covers?
Sure, yeah. Yeah that always happens. I think half the time it happens it’s done as like a joke, people probably knowing that I’m not going to do it or like, or trying to make that ‘in’ joke, just in case anybody in the crowd wasn’t aware of it (laughs) which I think by now everybody kinda is. So yeah, I think most of the time it’s a joke but I think there are times when people genuinely wanna hear a Jebediah song (laughs) but I never do it so, you know (laughs).
I’ll make a note of that, don’t request Jebediah next time you come to town.
You can (laughs) I don’t care, I don’t want people to feel like they can’t speak up… but yeah, if nothing else it becomes a point of conversation, you know, between me and the audience. So yeah, it’s all good.
Watch: Bob Evans – Don’t Wanna Grow Up Anymore
Well it has been nearly a year since Car Boot Sale. What made you decide to release an EP this time?
Well this EP is just like six home demo recordings that I’ve done at home in my garage, basically over the last, God, 12 or 13 years, I’ve just been amassing all these home recordings of unreleased songs. I’ve been wanting to do something with them for ages and this is just an opportunity I guess to throw six of them out of the hundred. I think four of them are fairly recent, they’d be from the writing sessions for Car Boot Sale, but two of them are from the writing sessions for Goodnight Bull Creek, so that’s almost 10 years old. I just wanted an opportunity for people to hear them, because I still really like the songs, and my home recording sounds so different to the record. So yeah, I just thought it would be fun, and of course it’s little carrot I can dangle to people (laughs) to encourage them to buy their ticket before the night of the show.
Well yeah, I noticed you were giving the EP away when people do buy tickets.
Yeah, so it’s free, but you have to buy the ticket online to get it, obviously, because it only exists in digital format. So if you buy the ticket at the venue or something like that, there’s no way I can give you the EP. Though to be honest with you I’m sure we could probably sort something out (laughs).
Haha bonus! So obviously we did see you tour with Jebediah in 2015. How was it, being back on the road with those guys?
Oh it was amazing. Yeah, 2015 was the best, it was awesome. It was really successful, and we had heaps of fun, and it kinda carried into 2016 as well, we did a bunch of shows in 2016 and we did A Day On The Green last year as well. So yeah, I dunno, we’re really lucky because we don’t really plan too much about what we’re going to do. Obviously with 2015 that was all us, but since then all we’ve really done is just accept people’s offers to play shows (laughs). We basically get a phone call saying, “do you wanna do this?” and most of the time they’re really great opportunities like that Day On The Green tour we did last year, with You Am I, Something For Kate, Spiderbait; it was fucking awesome, it was so cool.
That was like all of my high school bands, I was so annoyed that I couldn’t go!
Oh it was really great, it was so much fun. Hopefully A Day On The Green will do something like that again, there’s other bands from that era that they could easily do it again with different bands. But yeah, the thing with Jebs is we seem to just get together every few months and do a bunch of shows and have a really good time.
So is there any chance that we might see new Jebediah?
Oh there’s always a chance, as long as we’re together and playing shows, that means that we’re still together and enjoying each other’s company. So as long as we’re together and enjoying each other’s company there’s always a chance that we’ll write another record. But yeah, I can’t see it happening in the short term, but I’d love to think that we could make another one.
Well your solo stuff is obviously very different to Jebediah, is that more true to your personal music preferences?
I wouldn’t say that necessarily… it’s just that I think Jebediah sort of represents in a lot of ways the music that I was into when I was a teenager, so when I discovered Triple J when I was 15 or whatever and started getting into bands and stuff, that’s sort of the environment that Jebediah came out of. And you know, the songs that we write very much kind of live within that world, but I suppose Bob Evans is probably more indicative of my current, you know, what I’m into at the moment. But really I’ve always just seen the two things as sort of satisfying those two different parts of my personality you know? There’s a part of my personality that loves making heaps of noise and you know, there’s another side of me that’s a little more introspective and I think it’s manifested in those two musical beings.
I mean, that’s good, to have those two outlets. A lot of people don’t have that.
Yeah, well I mean I guess I’m really lucky that both have been able to find their own audience and both have survived. Jebs have been around for a long long time and both are still kicking around, and yeah I definitely appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to do that. But I guess part of it is you make your own luck as well, because even when Jebediah have gone through their lulls or the same with my own stuff, I’ve never considered not doing it. I keep going because I love it and fortunately, because I’ve never quit, I’ve been around long enough to experience renewed interest in things that I’ve done. Like I was just talking to the last interviewer, the stuff that’s been happening with Jebediah in the last couple of years has been way better than where we were at in the mid-2000s. It seems more people are interested in the band now than they were 10 years ago, which is something that you could never predict. I guess a lot of people out there are kind of coming back to the band, you know? People who were around in the ‘90s and lost interest and are now coming back.
Watch: Jebediah – Fall Down
I do remember seeing, I think it was on Twitter, that you were doing stuff with Josh Pyke? And I heard that you made some kind of surprise appearance with Busby Marou?
I did, yes! That just totally came up out of the blue, Busby Marou were doing their home town album launch in Rockhampton and they invited me to come up and play at it, so I hadn’t been up to that part of the world for ages, so I was like sure! It was heaps of fun. Obviously they’re so popular up there, there was something like 2,000 people at that gig and North Queenslanders, man, they just fucking love Busby Marou, and it was really cool to experience that with them. In a way it reminded me a bit of the early days of Jebediah where we were doing really well in Perth, but the rest of the country didn’t really know who we were yet. I’m not suggesting Busby Marou aren’t well known all over the country, but just that sense of regionality, you know, where you can just have something really special in your home region that the rest of the country wouldn’t necessarily have any idea about. It was really fun getting to share that with them and witness that, it was cool.
For sure. So are you looking forward to the Lonesome Highways tour? The name of it sounds really… well… depressing?
(laughs) Well, what’s wrong with being lonesome? I really enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. I wouldn’t choose to spend every weekend for three months on my own traveling around playing shows if I didn’t like it (laughs)… it’s really great fun being on my lonesome. But yeah, it’s also supposed to guide people into acknowledging the fact this is a solo tour, I won’t be bringing a band with me like I did the last time I did a tour, so yeah that’s part of the reason for the name as well.
I noticed you snuck a couple of shows in Japan into that tour?
I have yeah, that just came up, this club in Osaka contacted me through Facebook – this is the beauty of social media, this kind of thing wouldn’t have happened to me 10, 20 years ago – but yeah I got this message on Facebook by this Japanese person saying they booked this club in Osaka and wanted to see if I could come over and play. It’s a tiny little club, I think, I’m playing two shows there because it only holds 70 people or something, and it’s a real niche bar they’re really into Western rock and pop music. Powerpop bands like Sloane and Velvet Crush, stuff like that. The only reason I had that gap in my schedule was because some other shows I was going to be doing with Jebediah didn’t end up happening. So this came along and I was like, “well as it turns out, I’ve got a spare week in my touring schedule,” and those dates worked for them. It’s really cool because I’ve never set foot in Japan before, as a tourist or to play shows, and I’ve always wanted to go there because Jebs have had records there, our fifth album that came out there did okay but we’ve never played a show there. Obviously touring overseas for a band like Jebediah is pretty expensive. It’s much easier for me to go overseas on my own because the costs are so small. It was another one of those lovely things that kind of just happen.
Serendipity! So you’ve got all female supports on this tour as well, what made you decide to do that?
This is true. I made that decision years ago. I’ve only chosen female support acts since about 2012. How do I put this succinctly without going off on some fucking long-winded ramble? (laughs) There are two reasons why I do it. One is there’s the political side to it, which is that I sincerely believe that female voice is underrepresented in music and in general day-to-day life. I think that is a real thing. When I do a gig and I’m given a bunch of suggestions of people to offer support act to, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way, as far as ‘choosing someone to support me.’ By giving that gig to a female instead of a male it’s not going to change the world but it’s one small thing I can do to make sure that on that particular night in that particular place, people hear a female voice as well as a male voice on stage. Like I said, it’s a small thing, it’s not earth-shattering, it’s not gonna change the world but on a micro level it’s something I can do that I want to do. Then also another side which isn’t political at all, which is just my personal taste. I’m not interested in live shows being sausage parties, you know? My ideal night out – because when I do a gig, it’s my Friday or Saturday night out too, as well as the audience’s – if I have the opportunity to curate that somehow, I do. I can’t choose who comes to the show but I can choose who joins me on stage, so I want to ensure the room’s kind of an even mix of men and women. Otherwise I think it’s just boring, you know?
Well I do live in a garrison city, so I know all about that!
Yeah look everyone has their own idea about that sort of thing, but for me personally it’s important to me. I just think it makes for a more interesting and enjoyable night for me, I hope it also has that effect on my audience as well.
For sure. Being a family man now, does that make it harder for you to go out on the road?
Ahhhh yeah, I suppose it does. It definitely is a huge influence on the choices that make. Like that trip to Japan, that’s the first time I’ve gone overseas to do a show since starting a family, because when I started having kids I pretty much decided look, I’m not going to keep going overseas and doing stuff just for the love of it, cos if I’m not making money from it (sighs) it’s just like a fucking paid holiday. So I kinda just stopped doing that. But yeah, it has influenced the decisions that I make. I don’t go away for the amount of time that I used to. I just do weekends, so I’ll go away for three or four nights and come home for three days then go back again, just go back and forth like that. I don’t want to be away for more than a week. I think the longest I’ve been away in one hit since having kids is maybe about ten days.
That’s not too bad. You don’t take the kids on tour with you?
Not yet. But I’d like to think that’s gonna be possible in the future, but not at this point in time. My youngest is like three years old and my eldest daughter has just started school, so obviously that rules out Monday to Friday (laughs). But obviously any opportunity I get for them to come to a gig I take it, it doesn’t happen very often but it does from time to time. In fact the next gig I’m doing this weekend, they’re coming with me, which will be fun. The other thing is, though, they don’t really give a shit (laughs) my music and what I do, it’s not of great interest to them, I mean they’re three and five, they’d rather listen to Taylor Swift than me and that’s totally fine, it has absolutely zero effect on my ego whatsoever.
I know you did a lot of press for Car Boot Sale and you seemed to clear up a lot that you weren’t turning 40, have you started planning the party yet?
I turn 40 on October the first this year, but yeah it was kind of annoying me because, like… I think what it does is it highlights how many people use Wikipedia to do their research, because like on Wikipedia my age is wrong. It says that I was born in like ’76 and so everybody just looks at Wikipedia I guess and assumes that it’s true. I’ve only got a few months left of being in my 30s and back then, last year when my record came out, I was only 38, I hadn’t even turned 39 yet and people were trying to tell me I was 40! I was like, ‘woah woah woah slow down! Slow down, I’m 38!’
Is it a bit of a reality check though? You know, 40 is supposedly a milestone.
I get reality checks all the time that’re way more of a cold slap in the face than turning 40. I mean, I get a reality check every day that I have to scoop up my dog’s shit from my back lawn, (laughs) or get woken up at 5.30 in the morning by one of my kids cos there’s a spider on the roof or something. I dunno, there’s shit that happens every day of my life that keeps me grounded. Turning 40, you know what? I don’t think it’s going to bother me that much. Turning 30 bothered me, I remember. I struggled a bit with turning 30. I get the feeling that 40 is going to be water off a duck’s back, especially seeing everyone thinks I’m 40 anyway (laughs) I may as well just fuckin’ go with it too, right?
Yeah, I reckon! Last of all, what is next for Bob Evans after this tour, and is it back to home life for Kevin Mitchell after this?
(laughs) Oh nah, I’m entrenched in home life. My career is basically that thing that I squeeze into the gaps that are left over in my domestic life. So when this tour’s finished I’m going to be doing a bunch of Jebediah shows and just working on new Bob Evans stuff. I haven’t really gotten into demoing the next record at all yet, so yeah when this tour finishes I’ll have a month or two off where I’ll be able to concentrate on just starting to formulate a plan for Bob Evans, and then yeah there’s a bunch of Jebediah shows happening, a lot of them haven’t been announced yet.
Ooh, exciting times.
Yeah… oh, and of course too I should say too, my podcast, Good Evans It’s A Bobcast!
I was going to ask you about that, I just didn’t want to take more of your time, but I did notice it was coming back!
(laughs) Yeah, it’s back… I mean, it’s really difficult to do because when I’m not touring it’s okay but as soon as I start touring trying to line up guests and stuff is a fucking nightmare cos I just don’t have any time, then the little moments of time I have off, have to line up with my guests’ time. So it can be really difficult but it’ll probably always be the kind of thing that comes and goes, unfortunately. Trying to keep a schedule with it is really difficult but yeah I’m still doing it, still really enjoying it so yeah.
Lonesome Highways tour dates:
Thursday 20 April: The Front Bar, Canberra
Friday 21 April: Lizottes, Newcastle
Saturday 22 April: Hardy’s Bay Club, Central Coast
Wednesday 3 May: Clarendon Guest House, Katoomba
Friday 5 May: Camelot Lounge, Sydney
Saturday 6 May: The Brass Monkey, Cronulla
Sunday 7 May: Heritage Hotel, Bulli
Thursday 11 May: The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba
Friday 12 May: 5 Church St, Bellingen
Saturday 13 May: Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Thursday 1 June: Baha, Rye
Friday 2 June: The Croxton Front Bar, Melbourne
Saturday 3 June: Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide
Friday 9 June: Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine